From the Wall Street Journal:
The AFL-CIO crowned a new king yesterday at the labor federation’s convention in Pittsburgh. Now some Democrats are rushing to pay the union’s new president, Rich Trumka, tribute by reviving Big Labor’s top legislative priority, the “card check” legislation.
First in line: Senator Arlen Specter (version 2009, Democrat), who turned up in Pittsburgh to tout new wrapping for the same old bill that got waylaid in the face of opposition from moderate Democrats and the GOP. When Mr. Specter was a Republican, lo, these many weeks ago, he opposed rigging the rules to ease unionization and reverse a decades-long free fall in membership. Now, as a Democrat, he needs labor to keep his seat in next year’s Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. Mr. Specter is nothing if not adaptable, and he gave the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act enthusiastic support and claimed a breakthrough to pass the bill “before the year is up.”
Mr. Specter’s revised bill would accomplish the same goals as the old “card check” by slightly different means. He said a new proposal negotiated among a small group of Senators, yet to be unveiled, drops the provision to end the secret-ballot in union elections. In place of this proposal to automatically unionize if more than half the employees sign union cards, they are proposing an election within a week or so of a minority of employees petitioning for a union. This shotgun vote is intended to deny employees the kind of educated choice that comes with a proper discussion of the merits of unionization informed by both management and labor.
The new old “card check,” according to Mr. Specter, also gives unions unprecedented access to the workplace and meetings between employers and employees before a vote to unionize. Last we checked the Constitution, even in the age of Obama private companies haven’t signed away their property rights.
An equally problematic binding arbitration provision stays in. This idea would let a federal arbitrator impose a contract if the employer and a newly organized union aren’t able to agree within three months. In other words, a government-sponsored agent would decide what salaries and benefits management will have to pay its employees. Throw in the expanded access to company property, and this so-called compromise bill may be worse than the original.
Mr. Specter claimed that moderate Democrats who have opposed “card check” such as Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln would now vote to stop what is certain to be a Republican filibuster attempt. Rather than take his word for it, we checked with them. Senator Lincoln’s office said “her position has not changed.” Mr. Nelson’s office says he “doesn’t have much to say” until a bill actually comes before the Senate.
Sixty votes are needed to make this long-held dream of the labor chieftans come true. That won’t be easy. But Mr. Specter’s latest flip and President Obama’s repeated support for “card check” are noteworthy reminders that after health-care reform, the Democrats have other big outstanding debts to their left, which they intend to settle.